Monday, July 27, 2009


In lawsuit, NYC's electronics recycling law is called irrational
Tech industry groups say law is illegal, seek injunction; Environmental group asks, What's the alternative?
Patrick Thibodeau

July 27, 2009 (Computerworld) WASHINGTON - If you have a big 20-year-old TV in your basement, then New York City's new electronic recycling law may help with the spring cleaning. All you'll need to do is contact the manufacturer, which will be required to remove it, and probably send over a delivery truck to pick it up for free.

Two industry groups that represent electronic makers are livid about the law, and in a federal lawsuit filed (PDF format)Friday, they argue that there is no way that they should be responsible for recycling all the electronics ever made, or at least what survives under the beds and in the closets of millions of NYC residents.

The E-waste program requires manufacturers to collect from residents any electronics that weigh more than 15 pounds. The law applies to all previously purchased electronics. The potential amount of e-waste in NYC amounts to an estimated 1.3 million televisions, computers and other electronic equipment totaling 47.9 million pounds annually, according to the lawsuit. Items weighing less than 15 pounds will be either mailed-back or left at a drop-off point established by a manufacturer.

The law was passed in 2008 and is due to take effect next year. The exact date is contingent on city approval of manufacturer recycling plans. The law will prohibit NYC residents from disposing of electronic waste in the trash.

For electronics makers, the law "will have an absolutely staggering impact," said Rick Goss, vice president of environment and sustainability for one of the two groups filing the lawsuit, the Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and other major tech vendors. Many vendors already have their own recycling programs, such as HP's trash-to-cash program.

The trade groups estimate it will cost manufacturers more than $200 million annually to comply with NYC's law. The Consumer Electronic Association is the other group involved.

The lawsuit contends NYC's recycling is "illegal and unconstitutional," "unprecedented," and "without any rational basis." It is seeking a temporary injunction while the case is considered.

One person who supports the law is Kate Sinding, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in New York. Taking up the example of making the manufacturer responsible for disposing of a 20-year-old TV, Sinding, said "I'm not exactly sure what's wrong with that." If the old TV gets picked up by the sanitation trucks, smashed and thrown into a landfill, "is that better?" she said. As far as collecting from residences, the manufacturers can arrange to do it in coordinated fashion to cut the expense, and the cost of the recycling can be included in the equipment cost. The reason for making manufacturers cover the costs is "so they think about how they are designing the products in the first place," Sinding said. She said the law is comparable to recycling laws in Minnesota and Illinois.

Businesses of fewer than 50 employees will be able to get their electronic goods recycled under the provisions of this law, but companies with more than 50 employees will have to pay for removal of electronic waste. The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York.

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